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Volume 2, Issue 2
Summer 2006:

In Memory of the Body Donors

Kelley Jean White

Cell 2 Soul. 2006 Summer; 2(2):a12

1. The Vestibule

The children are restless waiting in line to see the dead.
This one leans against his mother's leg, rubs his forehead
on wet denim, her slicker dripping on his hair. Yes,
it's raining. But the hot dog venders do good business:
these bodies after all, are now plastic, not meat.
A woman puts on lipstick, licks her lips.
A child in a stroller wears a birthday crown.
A cheerful girl tears my ticket. Shall I save my stub?

Vesalius was black. Did you know?
See the reproduction drawing on the wall there?
Well, we cannot be sure, but his portraits—
that dark rascal pulling back the skin—
you can almost see the pirate earring—

they say: curly kinky hair
they say: African nose, African lips.
He winks at us an intelligent enticement:
we have to trust his careful cadavers.

2. Ramp

No cell phones. As if I'd call you from a corpse's lap.
They do sell ear phones. Audio tour.
Would they offer a special fingertip
tour for the blind? Or would I narrate?
Dictate these muscles I've forgotten?
Trace them with a finger on your chest?

Your father tried to teach here.
He said the audio tour was useless.
I imagine him pointing out the muscles and tendons
with his confident cynical voice. We're you interested?
Did you take notes?

It's too hot on the ramp.
I'm trying to hide
my note-taking.
As if it were a shameful thing.

I was not ashamed
to peel back skin.
I was not ashamed to shake dry fat
from the forceps, to flick fat with my fingernails
from my ungloved hand.

3. Nerve.

I was proud of my brachial plexus.
A fine dissection. That macramé
of motor and touch.

I still have the dissecting kit
in my drawer. I could take it out now. Dissect again:
A worm. A frog. Beef heart.
Fetal pig. An unhatched chick.
A bovine eye.
Carry the lens in my pocket
for luck.

We kept the hands
and faces wrapped. For better preservation?
Now I am told it was to spare
us the shock of humanness.
Did they have hair?
Fingernails? When we unwrapped the hands—

That glory! How did I forget
the elegant mechanism of the fist?
The pullied opening
of the closed hands.
Sweet hammered piano of sinew and bone.

4. Cross

Once you studied the wounds of Christ. Wandered
museums to find which medieval master understood—
the injury, the proper wound
to the ulna, median, radial nerve,
which way the hand would claw
or splay, the ideal pattern of bleeding,
fracture, dislocation.

Now I barely remember
the names of the bones.
       Ah, that was a wonder.
The top of a bone like a marble column.
Rotating. And so satisfying
to roll the ball-and-socket of the hip.

This natural puppet—
marionette of knuckle, sinew,
flexor, extensor.
Make me a model, the hand.
Hammer my marble fingers.

5. Cash

Crunch of cash
registers. People are shopping.
But you can't buy bones
anymore. Not human bones.

They used to prepare them
with beetles, flesh eaters,
most efficient way to clean,
to flense

cranium & carapace
turtle shell, hard chitin
of beetle shell: as if we could crawl
inside it, our shell,
our brain pan, our moving home.

Shall I save the little mouse skull
I swept today from under the stairs?
Dear little snout.

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